Sampino's Towne Foods
Fans of foodie cinema doubtlessly recall 1996’s Big Night, when a finical chef (played by Tony Shalhoub) decides to serve “timbale”—a hatbox-sized pastry filled with salami, meatballs, boiled eggs, pasta and red sauce and sliced like cake—at an important dinner party. It’s a scene that’s replayed every Friday night at Sampino’s Towne Foods, the downtown Italian deli beloved for its sandwiches, and now for its weekly, seven-course, family-style dinner. Bill Sampino, who spent over 30 years behind meat counters at Corti Brothers and David Berkley, and his son, Michael, serve their own delectable version of the dish, as well as other heritage offerings, while Big Night plays on a TV behind the counter. Dinner—which runs $30 to $40 depending on entrée selection—starts with trays of tangy antipasti and fresh bread (two types: Italian loaf and focaccia), moves on to zuppa (a recent bowl featured a feisty, creamy carrot), then timbale. Feeling full? Too bad. Here comes the rich risotto and then a fish or meat secondi (think roasted wild salmon or bone-in veal chop). The meal finishes with palate-cleansing greens and des-sert, such as fruit gelato. The menu changes monthly. Tip for attendees: Make reservations at least two weeks in advance.